In the Arizona High Desert, Taking the Temperature of a Wine Boom

One of the bottles that Mario, our server, placed in front of us for a $12 flight tasting — a tasty 2015 Seyval Blanc with a hint of fresh sliced apple — came from vines at D.A.Ranch, which locals refer to as the prettiest in the valley. It was an unhurried, splendid tasting, with Mario frequently stopping by to educate us on what we were drinking.

Another standout was the 2017 Cousin Idd, a velvety, complex red with hints of red licorice and chocolate. On the bottle, each grape type was listed, along with the date it was harvested, and the elevation of each vineyard. It struck me that nobody pours their heart and soul into their wine quite like these Arizona winemakers.

“The style of Arizona wine is old-world,” Mario said, referring to the European way of picking grapes. “We have to pick our grapes early in Arizona. If you don’t, the monsoon will ruin them.”

Verde Valley might be considered the most upstart of the state’s wine-growing regions. And its grape growers possess a freewheeling attitude that seems attuned to the philosophy of Gordon Dutt, the now retired soil scientist who founded Arizona’s modern-day wine industry outside of Tucson in 1975. It was Mr. Dutt who first drew a connection between the soils found in certain parts of Arizona and those of southern France.

One of the lessons Mr. Dutt imparted to prospective winemakers in Arizona was that they must be adventurous. Don’t haphazardly plant grapes, he said. Instead, seek out the parts of the state that yield the best wine. There is a parallel, too, for travelers who hear about the wonders of California wine country and Bordeaux. Expand into a newer landscape, and you might be surprised at how well the vine takes root.

Alex Schechter, a writer based in Los Angeles, is a frequent contributor to the Travel section.

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